Manchester City are ready to trigger Lionel Messi's buyout clause, according to reports in the Spanish media.
The Argentinian star could earn up to £25 million per year at the Etihad, as reported by El Confidencial, via Football Espana: "El Confidential have said City will attempt to take advantage of Messi’s unhappiness with his contract and the current negotiations, which have not gone smoothly, as well as Messi's tax case and the way it was covered in the Spanish Press."
The report claims Gerardo Martino's potential exit could signal a move for Messi, while the player has also been criticised by teammates who believe he should "put more effort into matches and training."
Paris Saint-Germain are said to be monitoring the situation alongside City, but France's 75 percent tax rate for high earners makes the deal rather difficult. Both clubs have allegedly spoken to Jorge Messi, the player's father and agent.
The supposedly interested parties are two of a very limited number of clubs who could afford Messi. His £200 buyout clause, as reported by David Kent of the Daily Mail, would see him break the current world-record transfer fee by nearly two-and-a-half times but would also ensure the buying club faces a real battle to comply with FIFA's financial fair play rules.
Considering both teams are likely to face investigation without this additional cost, per Martyn Ziegler of The Independent, Messi's transfer would have to be met with major outgoings at either of the ambitious recipients.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu bats away rumours of Messi's departure by confirming the club plan to make him the world's highest-paid footballer next season, as reported by Stefan Coerts of Goal.com: "We want him to be the world's best-paid player and during summer everything will be sorted," said Bartomeu. "We won't sell him. He's with us and hopefully he will retire at the Camp Nou."
Messi has scored 22 goals in a combined total of 23 La Liga and Champions League appearances this term, per WhoScored.com. The 26-year-old recently netted against City during the European competition's round of 16 tie at the Etihad, where he converted a penalty after luring Martin Demichelis into the foul.
Despite suffering from injury during last year's Champions League, he came off the bench to provide a vital assist in the quarterfinal second leg, providing Pedro the chance to level at 3-3 on aggregate, with Barca advancing on away goals.
Any sign of discontent at the club puts Messi under the spotlight. His importance, potential transfer fee and wage demands suggest the four-time Ballon d'Or winner will remain at Barcelona for the foreseeable future.
The finances of both City and PSG are likely to receive plenty of attention in the coming months. Signing Messi would only amplify costs and put the club in danger of breaching FIFA's new rules.